Give Ezra Klein plenty of credit for intellectual honesty about a program that he supported for years from his perch at the Washington Post. In his appearance on Morning Joe today, Mika Brzezinski introduced Klein with a reference to the Healthcare.gov site’s “glitches,” but Klein corrects her. They’re not just glitches, and the front end of the website is not the real problem (via The Corner):
The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein warned that the Obama administration is underplaying the problems facing its online exchanges by simply labeling them “glitches.” Ironically, according to Klein, the websites’ incapacity to handle Internet traffic is actually preventing users from encountering what may be the sites’ biggest problem.
“These aren’t glitches,” Klein said on Morning Joe on Monday. “The website, to a first approximation, simply isn’t working.”
He explained that the more fixable problem facing the website was dealing with traffic. The bigger problem, according to Klein, was whether the right information was being sent to insurers after users enroll, including messages that users hadn’t yet enrolled even if they had.
“That is a problem, I think, that the Obama administration is and should be worried about,” he said.
Worried? Try “frightened,” Ron Fournier argues at National Journal. After all, setting up a website should be the easy part:
2. This is the easy part. Finding and motivating people to take action online is the founding strength of Team Obama. This is what they do best.Managing a complex law is a different matter, and it’s fair to question whether the president and his team are up to it.
How do you convince healthy young Americans to pay for insurance they may not need in order to fund the program? Do companies shed workers and working hours to avoid coming under the law? Are people with cheap catastrophic plans forced to pay more in the exchanges? Tricky questions likes these will soon make the hard art of website design look like fingerpainting. “The online federal health care exchange, the heart of the Obamacare project, is such a rolling catastrophe that it may end up creating a major policy fiasco immediately rather than eventually,” wrote Ross Douthat in a New York Times column titled, “Obamacare, Failing Ahead of Schedule.”
Fournier agrees with Klein that the Obama administration isn’t being honest about the problem, and that their lack of transparency should be just as embarrassing as it is maddening. He points out the same problem of passing bad data, and then scoffs at the White House claims that it can’t produce the proper metrics on enrollment:
The administration refuses to say how many people have enrolled through the federal exchange, the key metric for determining how well the online service is working in states that didn’t set up their own exchanges. There are two possible explanations for the Obama administration’s unconscionable lack of transparency. Their process is so screwed up that they don’t have the data, which would be embarrassing. Or they have the data – and it’s embarrassing.
The incompetence of the rollout is embarrassing no matter how one approaches it. When it embarrasses longtime supporters like Klein badly enough to publicly call out the administration, then we know just how embarrassing it is — and how much it damages the big-government philosophy that drove it.
Update: Talk about dishonest — did Obama actually blame the shutdown? Yes, he did:
“About three weeks ago, as the federal government shutdown, and the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance marketplaces opened up across the country,” said Obama. “Well, we’ve now gotten the government back open for the American people and today I want to talk about how were going to get the marketplaces running at full steam as well.”
Say what? The White House had three and a half years to get this ready, and it rolled out on the same day as the shutdown. The website issues existed long before the shutdown, and the Obama administration was well aware of them before the shutdown and decided to proceed anyway. Talk about spin.